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3 shell scripts to improve your writing/“My PhD advisor rewrote himself in bash”

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There are four books at arm’s length in my office:

Precision and clarity

My Ph.D. advisor, Olin Shivers, taught me that technical writing is a balancing
act between precision, clarity and marketing.

After a recent round of paper submissions with my own
Ph.D. students, I’ve identified mechanically recognizable ways that
precision and clarity leak out of a paper: weasel words and abuse of
the passive voice.

So, I’ve written shell scripts to detect these leaks.

(I don’t think I’ll ever be able to write a shell script that
detects bad marketing for a scientific idea.)

Weasel words

Weasel words–phrases or words that sound good without conveying
information–obscure precision.

I notice three kinds of weasel words in my students’ writing: (1)
salt and pepper words, (2) beholder words and (3) lazy words.

Salt and pepper words

New grad students sprinkle in salt and pepper words for seasoning.

These words look and feel like technical words, but convey


 

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